Packing For a Trip with the Kids

by Marie on May 28, 2009

Allison, from Petit Elefant, is here today as my guest, sharing some fabulous tips on traveling with kids, how to pack, what to bring, and getting ready for the road.


I’m currently in a mad dash to pack my family for the adventure of a lifetime. We’re road tripping for three weeks down the coast of California, from San Francisco to San Diego. I can’t wait, road trips are the best! We go on them all the time, and we almost always have an amazing time.

Packing for said road trips? Not so much. I invariably spend the day before the vacation pulling my hair out, wondering why I ever thought a road trip was a good idea. Since we do it so often I thought I’d share some of my packing tips; they’ve been hard earned over the years.


First of all, Ziplock bags will be your saving grace. I used to make fun of people who traveled with them, but they are critical for road trips with kids. Headed to a sandy beach? Put a Ziplock in your bag and fill it with whatever treasures your kids find. You won’t be able to smell the decay of ocean smells all the way home, pure magic. Ziplocks are also perfect for toiletries: shampoo bottles, toothpaste, etc. I always double bag the gooey stuff; you never know when you’ll have an explosion on your hands.

Secondly, take a potty. No explanation necessary.


Individual suitcases for the kids. I bought these two from Lillian Vernon a few years ago on clearance, and it was the smartest travel move I’ve ever made. One for him, one for her, no fighting. Whatever fits can come on the trip and if it doesn’t, too bad so sad.



I lay it all out on the carpet so I can see what I’m dealing with. This trip is the longest we’ve ever attempted to go {3 weeks!} but I’m not taking a ton of clothes for the kids, I just plan on doing a lot of laundry.


I have a bunch of stuff for any type of weather: sweaters, jacket + hat, shorts, tees, 2 pair of shoes, pajamas, a blankie. The usual.


Stack of tees for my son. I usually don’t take this many shirts but this boy can go through three outfits in a day, easy. I don’t want to do laundry every night.


My nine-year-old doesn’t require as much stuff, she usually only goes through two outfits a day.


Laundry: come to terms with it, learn to love it. I’m taking $20 in quarters, a bag of OxiClean {aforementioned son requires it}, dryer sheets, Laundry Tree soap nuts and essential oils, and a laundry bag. I just throw the dirties in the bag so it’s consolidated into one place for my late night hotel laundry room jaunts.


The basics for the car include a bag full of bags. I stash a bunch of my old grocery bags and use them along the way for garbage. I’ve never used this many before, but we’ll be gone for three weeks and I don’t want to take any chances. I love traveling in a clean{ish} car, and “taking out the trash” at every rest stop helps.


2 kids + 2 parents + 20 days on the road = 6 pack of air freshener.


DVD player for the car. This one is critical for long distance trips. We’ve gone back and forth as parents about whether or not to use these in the car; we really would rather promote back seat reading and crafting. But when it comes down to it, halfway to Reno I’ll be bowing down to the gods of electronics for inventing these things. We originally had two screens, but one was damaged on one of our trips, and now the kids have to share. Poor deprived things.


And last but not least, I pack a cooler full of drinks. Gas station stops can add up really really fast. I’d rather pay .59 cents at the grocery store for Gatorade than 4 times that on the road. Ditto for the Diet Dr. Pepper.

Those are my essentials for happy travels with kids! Happy trails.

Thanks, Allison. These are going to come in handy this summer as I’m planning a few family trips myself. Love that little potty, I might have to invest in that for my daughter!

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